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I'm weirdly delighted at this card my grandma got Andrew for his birthday.

He didn't bother punching out and assembling the paper airplane, but I did!

"Maybe it's because she thinks of us as going to visit on a plane?" Andrew said when he'd opened the card and was telling me about the paper airplane in it.

It certainly makes me think of that, now.

I miss my grandma. It was nice to see her handwriting again. She doesn't do e-mail or cell phones or anything, but she used to write occasionally -- it's harder now, because of her eyesight -- and I wrote back, never often enough.

This time of year is often the worst for me missing people. One of the unexpected upsides of university is how much better I've handled the changing of the seasons because of it: I've been too busy to be wistful. But there are moments.

I'll write her a nice letter, thanking her for such a great card.


Jun. 21st, 2017 10:37 pm
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It's been so hot and my hair's so thick that I shaved most of it off this evening.
A selfie where I try to show off that the sides of my head are shaved. My dark hair is longer on the top and combed off to one side.
Feels much better now. But no doubt this means the heatwave is over. You're welcome.

It's the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, a bittersweet occasion for me because I'm sad to think the days are getting shorter now already. It feels like I haven't had a chance to get used to or appreciate them yet. It's been a real catastrophe curve of a year, so time passes without me noticing it.
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I just saw something on facebook about Water Aid trying to encourage people to drink only water for the month of January. "Had one too many?" it asks, making broad assumptions of shared culture.

It makes me laugh, because I might be the only person I know who looks forward to Christmas finishing so I can get back to rich food and strong flavors and alcohol and indulgence and all the things I'm getting back just when everyone's supposed to want to give them up!
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Got my first holiday card* this year, from [livejournal.com profile] starbrow. Inside there is a very nice message and a signature on the right side of the card. On the left side is just written

* I've seen a few "if you want a holiday card let me know" posts. I have been rubbish at answering them because I was hoping I could offer reciprocal cards this year...and it turns out that is in no way a possibility. Sad times. But if you are still willing to send a card to someone who can't send one to you, please add me to your list because I love getting cards and I really need more cheerful things right now. Will happily give out my address if you need it.
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...is what I said last year.

If you're going to die, don't die on a holiday that isn't on a fixed date. It means in future years the date of your death and the holiday will be on different days, and it makes two very difficult days. Last year, the twenty-forth of November was almost a week distant from Thanksgiving (which is always on the fourth Thursday of November) and I thought that was worse. But this year they're on the same day, today obviously, and my mom finds that harder.

So I'm glad they're able to do something different from how they usually spend Thanksgiving. My dad's sister and her partner have moved this year, they're fixing up what sounds like a nice house out in the woods in northern Minnesota, it sounds lovely. But it's also lovely because it's something new, because they're not doing what they always did, they're not surrounded by several generations of my mom's family without having their own children there. My aunt and her partner have grown-up children who are scattered around and who I don't think will be around this weekend. And since it's a long enough drive they're not just going for the day like they would if they were going to my mom's sister's, they're staying for the whole long weekend, which will keep them away from the whole holiday palaver, the Black Friday sales and the traffic and everything.

But I miss them. I didn't get to talk to them last week before they went, which is a shame. Thanks to Skype I should be able to talk to them at some point while they're at my aunt's, but still. I worry that they think I'm somehow unaffected by this because I'm not there, and we don't have the holiday. But I am, and I'm affected differently precisely because of those things.
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Friend of mine (his tweets are locked; no one any of you know anyway I think) tweeted
"Whatever Happened to My Transylvania Twist?": Nostalgia and Modernity in Vampire Culture
(Followed by some explanation of the quote: "I've spent an uncommon amount of time thinking about the lyrics to "Monster Mash," and that line especially." His silly, very suited-to-the-medium-of-twitter idea resolves its tension when Dracula finally accepts the historical process of the dialectic and joins the band.)

But I read this first tweet and smiled and then suddenly realized how intense nostalgia would be in a long-lived or immortal species. And now I really want to read this treatise. And it doesn't exist.

This feeling of longing to read a book that doesn't exist is probably the kind of thing you'd get in a book about the nostalgia that vampires have.
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This was the week of everybody around me having health problems or concerns, so that can fuck the fuck off as soon as it likes.

But today was fun. To cheer up my friend Katie, I met her in town.

We looked around the Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World exhibit at the John Rylands Library...something which I'm sorry to say I basically couldn't engage with at all, fascinating as I find the subject matter. Mostly it was books in glass cases, which I understand being, y'know, Early Modern need to be kept in safe conditions. But they were not just behind glass and in very dim light, they were also accompanied by very small labels, with some of the writing being light-blue-on-white, explaining what everything was, which were useless to and a bit of a struggle even for fully-sighted Katie. There was a "Large print guide" at the start of the exhibit, which delighted me because it looked to be full of interesting stuff....until I realized that I couldn't relate anything I was reading to what I could see -- there was no way to know which interesting book or object was being talked about in the descriptions I was reading. Katie thought it was the same text as the brochure she'd originally found out about this exhibit from. Add this to the light-blue-on-white or white-on-light-blue text in the very dim lighting conditions, and the fact that Katie had been led to expect a lot more than a little corridor with about six things to look at in it, and neither of us could quite say we were happy with it.

Shame as I do love the John Rylands. And now with my volunteering/museums/accessibility habits well-ingrained (as anyone who's been to any kind of museum or similar with me in the last six months can attest, I'm always going on about fonts and light and contrast and signposting now; Katie said I should make myself a job as a disability consultant), I've tweeted them to ask who I can talk to about accessibility because I have some feedback. And Katie and I found a couple of comfy chairs just waiting for us to sit in them and chat about work and health and relationships and everything (possibly annoying the Terribly Serious visitors to this corridor, but if so they were too polite and British to say anything) before we decided we should get some food.

We ended up going to Ed's, the chain trying to be 50s American diners that has recently made it to Manchester. What I knew only as "the place to go if I'm waiting for a train at Euston" Katie was familiar with as somewhere she and her friends would go after school, age twelve or thirteen, to have cheesy fries and peanut butter milkshakes and imagine they were doing exactly what all American teenagers do. So of course we had to get cheesy fries, and this time her peanut butter milkshake had banana in it too. I considered a root beer float but went for the other thing I always get at this place: chocolate malt. Being my father's child, I far prefer malts to shakes, and they're impossible to find otherwise (though Andrew once made me one with Ovaltine and it worked surprisingly okay). We also had "Atomic American Onion Rings," which is just onion rings with lots of implausible things to dip them in: "jalapeƱo jelly," barbeque sauce, cheese (and we're talking proper bright-yellow chemical-tasting cheese sauce here, same thing that was on the fries), guacamole and sour cream.

After we'd eaten all the onion rings, we still had half a bowl of cheesy fries left, but dumped the sour cream, guac and the other cheese sauce into the bowl as well, getting a bit giddy by this point from all the sugar and just how much we were enjoying each other's company. "Whatever the female equivalent of a bromance is," Katie said, "that's what we're doing." So I told her about Galentine's Day, which yes technically would have been yesterday but we were clearly celebrating exactly the things it means to celebrate: friendship with women you can be yourself around. Appropriately, perhaps, we'd already spent a bunch of time talking about some womanly things, like hormonal birth control, being socialized to blame yourself for everything about other people that disappoints you, emotional labor, how difficult it's been to overcome diet culture and how delighted we were that we could enjoy our meal of fat and carbs and everything that's supposed to be bad for us.
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...the more we give honest answers to "How was Christmas?" the more people say "Why don't you just get your parents to come to the UK for Christmas instead?"

And it's starting to remind me of that time we had no internet or phone service for a month because of multilayered cock-ups between two or three different telcoms, and days and weeks into this whenever Andrew or I offered any kind of update or gripe about this, someone always said "You should tweet them about it, that really helped me/my friend/my uncle/my niece's monkey when they had a problem..." And I was just like, "We are so far past that now..."

Thanks for wanting to help but really. We know. We've thought of this, and if it was going to work it already would have.
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Yesterday [personal profile] haggis told me that instead of having specific New Year's resolutions this year, she was just thinking "make the easy things hard, and make the hard things easy." I've been thinking about that a lot since then, and the more I do the more I like it. Make the easy things -- spodding on the internet, procrastinating, etc.etc. -- hard, make the hard things -- sorting out house, doing errands, etc. -- easy. I'm not doing a great job of it so far, but since it's a general approach to things and not a hard-and-fast resolution, I don't need to feel bad about every time I fail to make the hard things easier or give in to the things that are already too easy. Even when I'm "getting it wrong" (like when I added to the clothes all over my bedroom floor rather than tidying them up, which is what reminded me I wanted to write about this idea), I'm finding the idea calming and helpful, and not something I'm berating myself for not living up to immediately and perfectly, not something I see as a chore or a difficult task.

Today when I saw [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie, she said that instead of typical resolutions about going to the gym or losing weight, she determined this year was going to be about self-care. And it was great to see that in action during our time together, as she was starting to buy clothes for the size she is rather than waiting to have things until she's the size she wants to be.

I've never liked the idea of New Year's resolutions much -- they've never worked for me, being so arbitrary and showing up in the middle of winter when my instincts are just to curl up and wait for spring. But this year I'm loving seeing my friends' ambitions, knowing that they have the skills and wherewithal to do great things in their lives, and for all of us to support each other in that.
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"I'm sorry," I told Andrew after he'd endured a day of pain and feigned neurotypicality for me.

"You didn't invent axial tilt, or the Abrahamic religions, or the capitalist system that gives us only a few days off a year," he reassured me.
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Today I got to help my Platonic Wife [personal profile] mother_bones decorate her (pink!) Christmas tree: drunken reindeer, scary-looking octopus, little monsters made of red vinyl, Communist snowflakes, and a tiny Santa hat to go on top.

"Shall we have a fairy on the top?" she asked, or the Santa hat?" A question I'm sure we've all asked around this time of year.
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The best thing about fireworks is that they're always the same. My parents' fixation on going on vacation the week of the fourth of July usually means we don't get to see fireworks because we're on a lake in the middle of nowhere. But I remember being quite young, before this tradition started, and going to watch fireworks over Fountain Lake, near my grandparents' house. And today, thanks to the quirk of having to end our vacation on yer actual fourth of July, we were able to do this again. We sat just about where I remembered we always did, by what used to be the bandstand and is now near hospital buildings. It reminded me of the fireworks I saw in Levenshulme last misummer's day with friends, and the time [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and I stood in mud and drizzle in Cringle Park for bonfire night fireworks, and all the other times. Fireworks bang and sizzle and fly and shine in such similar ways that I could believe all displays are connected somehow, every time we celebrate that not every rocket's red glare is dangerous and violent and hateful; some of them exist purely because their beauty inspires happiness.

The best thing about fireworks is that they make not only wildly-imaginative me but my less-known-for-flights-of-fancy parents say things like "palm trees" and "that looks like spaceships taking off" and other lovely ideas that wouldn't otherwise occur to me, even as I see starfish and toadstools and muse that there must be a Firework Galaxy or a Firework Nebula*. They're better than clouds for seeing pictures in.

The best thing about fireworks is that you have to share them. Anyone who can see your patch of sky, anyone within earshot, gets to be part of your fireworks. They must be communal; they cannot be horded or withheld from those considered unworthy.

The best thing about fireworks is how multimedia they are. Sound and color, sure, but also the big ones produce a percussive wave I can feel in my chest, and I love the smell of the smoke that hangs in the air after enough of them.

The best thing about fireworks is how they cannot be captured fully by recordings. No audio or video can convey more than a fraction of what they're like in the realtime real sky. Somehow so much of the experience of watching them is in the picnic blankets and lawn chairs and bug spray and the people you're with and turning your faces up to think big thoughts.

* Turns out there's both. Nebula. Galaxy.
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I wish my mom didn't explain to me every Father's Day since my grandpa died why my parents go to Red Lobster.

When my mom's dad was still alive, my parents always spent the day with my mom's side of the family. But now, they go to Red Lobster, because they miss my brother (they always claim it to be his favorite restaurant; I don't know if he'd have agreed, but it's done with the intention of memoralizing him anyway).

And every year my mom tells me this, tells me they won't be calling until late because they're going to Red Lobster (which means going to Mankato, which means they'll go shopping while they're there, which takes all frigging afternoon as I well remember).

And every year I think: I know.

I am not some stranger you have to remind of this. I know that my dad doesn't get to spend Father's Day with his kids (of course the same could be said for my mom but at least she can still spend Mother's Day with her mom, whereas my dad's parents died even before Chris did, so...). I know you never go to Red Lobster otherwise. I know it makes you think of Chris. I know you wish you could get closer to him than visiting his favorite restaurant. I know.

And I hate being told, because being told makes it sound like I care so little that I could ever forget or fail to understand these things. It feels like they don't trust the extent to which I share their loss, and that I bear witness to the rest.

I hate to be so self-centered on a day that's about fathers, and about all the people who don't have them or wish they didn't for whatever reason. I love my dad and I'm glad he's alive but I can't spend the day with him. I don't hate the day but I don't participate either. I just feel weirdly unsettled.
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The next time anybody feels the need to inform me of the fact that they think American holidays are silly and Americans celebrate them in silly ways, I hope I remember to tell them that today I saw a bunch of guys walk into Wetherspoons dressed like knights out of Monty Python (the scruffy trainers under their red-and-white robes adding particularly to the Pythonesque effect).

Remember, kids: No country has a monopoly on being silly or looking for excuses to skip work, dress up, or start drinking lager at breakfast time.
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I found something today I thought [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours might like, so I picked one up for him.

Then I realized if I gave him this thing, I'd be sad I didn't have it myself. So I bought another of it too, to keep for myself.
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"The only reason you're not getting a headbutt," Andrew said, "is because it's both your birthday and Short Girl Appreciation Day."

"My birthday is Short Girl Appreciation Day?" I said. "How did I not know about this until I was 33 years old? That's brilliant!"

Actually, it looks like my birthday's collecting amazing connections this year. I just got an e-mail from plok that included this: "So, thirty-three! That is as old as Captain Kirk was in the first season of Star Trek. Admittedly, he was only in charge of 430 crew members and a big Constellation-class starship, whereas you've got Andrew and a new house that has mysterious leaks."

(No mysterious leaks in the last few weeks, but now no lights in the basement work and I hear a funny noise in the kitchen that...okay, could actually be a mysterious leak. But I think it's just a noise the boiler and/or the radiator just above the kitchen make. So, yeah. Kirk's got it easy.)
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I got the most amazing Christmas present from Andrew's mom today.

The first thing Andrew took out of the big shopping bag containing our presents from his family was labeled for me and had a printed note taped to it that said "No 1 - open this first" in big letters.

It was a little box full of littler things: cotton buds, double-sided tape, hairspray, a bag of nuts (as in "bolts and..." rather than the foodstuff or...any other kind of nuts), pipe cleaners, a few other things...each with another printed* note taped to it, with a picture of something Christmasy (ranging from snowmen to the Christmas poo from South Park), saying stuff like "the polite thing to do is smile and say thank you" and "at least it isn't another Christmas jumper." One of the best things about this was watching Andrew's brother sitting across the room from me start out confused and amused like the rest of us, but with each pound-shop-esque item I opened, each note I read promising all would become clear later, his bafflement seemed to escalate into a frenzy of just being absolutely desperate to know what the hell was going on here.

I had a lot of presents to unwrap. After that first box of utterly random items there was a bag with different colors and sizes of balls of yarn, and a pair of knitting needles. This was intriguing. Finally I opened the last package (with its "No 4 - open last" label plastered over the wrapping paper).

And all did become clear, because it was the instruction booklet for a knitted chess set kit. The cotton buds and hairspray and double-sided tape are all things the pattern requires.

But to wrap them up separately and make me open them first was absolutely genius, and kept the whole family entertained for quite a while. Andrew's mom was so organized she even put an empty plastic bag next to where I was sitting in which to collect the huge volume of wrapping paper I was about to accumulate. And Andrew and his brother and sister and parents seemed to have as much fun watching the gradual strange process unfolding before them too, so it's fun for the whole family!

Now I just have to see if I can make the damn thing! It's a big step up from the triangles (hats) and rectangles (scarves, though I also once made a jumper entirely out of rectangles) I usually stick to.

* "Mum just got a new printer," Andrew's sister said in explanation when she saw me examining these little notes.


Dec. 9th, 2014 10:10 am
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I bought my last Christmas present yesterday, but I still somehow didn't quite feel like I was done yet.

I just chalked the feeling up to free-floating anxiety looking for something to latch on to -- a very plausible explanation! -- until I looked at the date today and realized.

It's my brother's birthday today. Getting him two presents was just part of my Christmas-shopping routine. So much so that I already had money put aside for that year's by the time he died (which, unable to contemplate spending on anything else, I ended up giving to charity), about two weeks before his birthday. The next year, I found myself veering toward his favorite store in the mall, before I realized and stumbled back to the direction I'd been walking in.

There's so much routine this time of year. So much that's the same as every other year, whether we think of it as tradition or torture. Thus some small part of my subconscious always nags at me that there's something incomplete, something we haven't done yet, someone we're still waiting for.

But we'd always be waiting, and we can't do that. Life goes on, and so too must we, but to what?
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"Today," slacktivist says, "is the birthday of Mark Twain, a day to be celebrated with jokes, stories and hallowed irreverence."

You can't have Thanksgiving celebrations in Britain on Thanksgiving, because everyone has to work. So I made the turkey and pumpkin pie and everything today, and while it may not have borne much resemblance to the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations -- well, actually I'm glad it didn't! -- I unknowingly picked an apt day for it, because there were certainly jokes, stories and irreverence along with our plates and cups of good cheer.
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I found a great birthday present for my Platonic Wife today. Now the only difficult thing is trying to wait until her birthday (about a month) to give it to her.


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